PressBooks: a new publishing tool built on WordPress

Hugh McGuire, founder of PressBooks

A mere 8 years after it was launched with just a handful of users, WordPress has grown to be the largest self-hosted blogging tool, hosting 15% of the world’s top 1 million websites and is viewed by tens of millions of people daily. Numerous companies are also gravitating towards the blogging engine to take advantage of its open-source, full content management system.

The latest is PressBooks, a new book-publishing platform designed to make it easy for writers and publishers to format their work for digital and print publication.

PressBooks is a digital-first book publishing tool built on WordPress. It lets authors use a content management system many users would be familiar with, to produce ePUBs, typeset PDFs and other XML formats. XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a set of rules for encoding, transporting and storing documents in machine-readable formats, with emphasis on simplicity, usability and accessibility, particularly over the Internet. PressBooks also makes a web version of all books — which can be private (for production only), or public (free or behind a paywall).

PressBooks, a Montreal-based start-up, is the brainchild of Hugh McGuire, a writer and web-developer and a co-founder of Book Oven, a cloud-based publishing tool that allows people to collaborate in writing, editing and proofreading a book, all through online tools. He’s also the founder of, an all-volunteer project whose aim is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet. It was once hailed as “perhaps the most interesting collaborative cultural project this side of Wikipedia.”

McGuire touts PressBooks as “the best digital publishing solution for anyone publishing a (mostly text-based) book.” He and his production team spent the last six months working with authors and publishers, developing and fine tuning the platform.

PressBooks has been given thumbs up by O’Reilly Media. O’Reilly publisher, Joe Wikert said: “We were really excited about testing out a new, easy-to-use platform for making books.”

Among the first fruits from PressBooks is “Book: A Furturist’s Manifesto (Part 1) … Essays from the bleeding edge of publishing,” published by O’Reilly Media and edited by Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary, a publishing veteran with 25 years of operational, management and consulting experience.

PressBooks is still in beta, and improvements to the system are ongoing but according to the developers, “it’s now solid enough for professional production of ebooks.”

Along with O’Reilly Media, another big-name player seems sold on the project. Harvard Business Review Press has produced and published an ebook using PressBooks. Managing Editor, Quoth Ania Wieckowski said: “PressBooks played a key part in the production process for our first ‘HBR single,’ ‘Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, by Heidi Grant Halvorson. It’s a helpful tool with powerful potential to shift how we think about book production.”

For more info email Hugh McGuire at
or give him a call: +1.514.464.2047.


Google Knol moves to WordPress

WordPress, meanwhile, has become the new home of Google Knol, an open-source platform originally developed by Google to provide users with a place to share their knowledge and publish scholarly articles – along the lines of Wikipedia. In December 2009, two years after it was launched, Google stopped developing Knol and it virtually flopped, making nonsense of predictions by some sections of the US media who claimed it would be a “Wikipedia-killer.”

Google has now created Annotum, an open-source platform set up on WordPress and invites authors with content on Google Knol to move their articles and collaborative journals to WordPress. They have the choice of moving to a self-hosted WordPress installation powered by the freely-available Annotum themes, or they can have their Annotum-powered site hosted for free on Knol will slowly shut down over the next year. users who would like to start new sites powered by the Annotum platform can activate one of the two new Annotum-enabled themes on new blogs and get started straight away.

“It’s yet another way the WordPress platform and are enabling the democratization of publishing and sharing of information with the world,” says WordPress.

For more detailed information visit If you’re moving to and have questions about the process, see their step-by-step guide and their list of frequently asked questions.

2 responses to “PressBooks: a new publishing tool built on WordPress

  1. Pingback: BlogVault, the best way to back up and transfer your WordPress website | Cool International | Ventures | Digital Media | Technology | Cool Blog·

  2. Pingback: Crea eBook in vari formati da WordPress con PressBooks « Come creare e pubblicare un ebook·

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